My family visited Graceland in 1993. My memories of the experience were prompted by another WordPress blogger I follow, Experience Film review of the most recent movie about the King of Rock and Roll.
I suppose there was time when Graceland lay in a rural setting but it is no longer so. The route south of Memphis is littered with drive through banks and strip malls in a bleak and hopeless urban sprawl.
During our approach to the home of the King so long ago now, one first saw the tail fin of the aircraft “Lisa Marie” sticking up behind a fence. The fence was there because it cost more to tour the airplane, plus even more to tour the cadillacs. We chose the mansion alone.
We had our disabled daughter with us. Graceland features the only parking lot I have ever encountered where the handicapped parking is the furthest from the entrance as possible. I suppose that is a comment of sorts: only the beautiful people are encouraged to visit.
We were behind a Dodge Caravan with Iowa plates. I noticed the several middle aged women getting out, all made up as if they had some grand personage to visit. We were in shorts, under dressed for the visit.
Once the fee is paid we are loaded onto a Ford mini-bus and begin to hear a steady stream of Elvis music for the drive across the street to the mansion. The gates with the music staffs and clefts iron works upon them swing open and we ascend the drive.
Upon disembarking we are met by young beautiful people who tell us that we will only be on the first floor and the basement, as Elvis told his aunt she could live there as long as she wanted, and she took him up on the offer. This was in 1993, and at the time all I could think of what the aunt might look like at that point in history was the mother of Norman Bates, c.f. Psycho (1960).
The living room is tastefully decorated. A white couch reminds me of photos of the King sitting there with Priscilla which I cannot locate. Perhaps it is only in my imagination.
We see a massive chandelier hanging in the stairway up to where the mother of Norman Bates must be lying and are told the front picture window had to be removed to allow the fixture to enter the house. That statement more or less sets the stage for a house full of excesses, a product of a man with a lot of raw talent and people who fashioned it into a wealth he really didn’t know what to do with.
Next we are ushered into “The Jungle Room” inspired by Elvis’s visit to Hawaii. In the young beautiful guides telling it sounded like Elvis discovered Hawaii and is responsible for statehood.
We are told he picked out all the furniture in a department store in downtown Memphis in 20 minutes. The guy behind me says “There will never be another like him.” Right, that is what I am thinking too, although it is not entirely a compliment.
Downstairs we find the pool table still with the rip in the felt, retained for some historical purpose. Across the basement we find the three televisions inset into the wall so the King could watch three football games at once, like Lyndon Johnson had at the White House to monitor the news, the story goes.
Out back there is a small office where Col. Parker issued the King instructions. The beautiful guide tells us Elvis ignored these instructions. Somehow I doubt that.
A shooting range is also outback. The story goes the neighbors complained about the noise, and called the police. Because of his on board charm, before long the police have joined Elvis in target practice, using their service revolvers. America was a different place then.
Finally we are taking to the handball court, adorned with all the gold and platinum CD’s and records, many of which are gospel music, and are told about the day Elvis died after exercising heavily. We are ushered to the grave where his parents have been interred next to him, as well as the remains of his twin who died at birth. A guitar shaped pool graces this southern wing of Graceland.
All in all it felt tragic. Raw talent, employed by those who knew how to fashion it, but ultimately it all caught up with him. Elvis has left the arena.